Cows, sacred victims of plastic waste in India

Cows, sacred animals for Hindus, have become one of the main victims of the plastics that flood streets and landfills of India, to ingest kilos of this waste that end up being a deadly diet.

At the "Sanjay Gandhi" animal shelter in New Delhi, several veterinarians are working on extracting nearly 80 kilograms of plastics from the stomach of a cow.

"Everyone prays to the cow, but there is very little protection, and the cow is the most abused animal in India," says Efe Ambika Shukla, manager of this animal shelter, considered the oldest and largest in the country.

The operation in the stable of the "Sanjay Gandhi" is practiced in the company of a thousand cattle, between buffaloes and cows, many victims of road accidents or abuse.

The cow, lying on the ground in a corner of the enclosure, is first sedated and then the veterinarians, after depilating the area of ​​the excision, begin to extract from the animal with effort for three hours "plastic strips and balls", up to 78 kilograms .

"In some we find less and in others more: 50, 60 or 70 kilos, the maximum amount has been 90 to 95 kilos," said Ajit Tyagi, supervisor of the "Sanjay Gandhi", who claims to have seen frequently during the last decade this type of cases.

The rapid development of India has caused that these bovines that previously grazed in meadows, have seen how their natural food became garbage and plastics in front of their snouts.

In landfills, the cows end up ingesting the remains of food mixed with plastics and other objects such as nails, ropes, and even aluminum foil, which chew for hours.

According to the Hindu belief, the cow is a carrier of 330 million gods, so their "sacred" condition prevents these cattle from being slaughtered or harmed, leading many to abandon them when they stop producing milk, for what thousands of cows roam freely on the streets of big cities.

And although at present in many Indian states the use of plastic bags up to 50 microns thick is forbidden, few have worried about the right of these animals to have a life free of waste.

"In general, the issue of plastic is receiving a lot of attention and laws are changing, but implementation is always a problem as long as plastic bags continue to be manufactured," Clementien Pauws, founder of Karuna, an association focused on 2000 in the protection of animals.

In 2012, Karuna activists along with the Visakha association, both aimed at protecting animals in the eastern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, launched the "The plastic cow" campaign.

The activists made a video in which they showed the seriousness of the problem and also demanded to the Supreme Court the total prohibition of the plastic bags.

In 2016, the Supreme Court announced the ban on the use of the so-called "light bags" (40 microns thick), a half victory, since many considered that they had lost the opportunity that the production of plastics had been definitively prohibited. "activist Rukmini Sahker told Efe.

Thus, while the Indian authorities enact new laws and initiatives for the protection of cows, the animal center "Sanjay Gandhi" continues to house these bovines that face daily other problems.

According to manager Shukla, cows are often injected with a hormone drug called oxytocin, which speeds up the process of milk production, but has painful contraindications.

On the other hand, the environmentalist recalled that India is also a major exporter of leather, which is often not extracted from dead cows, but are beaten until unconscious to subtract it.

"The cow is perhaps the most miserable animal in India, despite being legally, religiously and dogmatically protected," he concluded.


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